GEORGE, WALTER LIONEL
GEORGE, WALTER LIONEL (1882–1926), French-born English author
of half-Jewish parentage. He specialized in labor problems and questions
of sex and marriage. George's works include The City of Light
(1912), Israel Kalisch (1913), A London Mosaic
(1921), and The Story of Woman (1925). He also wrote a study
of Anatole France (1915).
GEORGIA (Rus. Gruziya), republic in W.
Transcaucasia. There is a tradition among the Jews of Georgia (the
"Gurjim") that they are descended from the Ten Tribes exiled by
Shalmaneser, which they support by their claim that there are no
kohanim (priestly families) among them.
Georgian historical literature had used the term "Georgian Jews" already
in the 11th century, but as a firmly established term
referring to a specific community it was used only from the early
19th century after Georgia was incorporated in the Russian
Empire. The Jews of Georgia call themselves Ebraeli and use
Georgian language as their spoken and written language of communication,
without resorting to the Hebrew alphabet. Georgian Jewish traders
developed the jargon Qivruli (Jewish), many roots of which
originated in Hebrew.
According to the 1897 census 6,407 Jews in the Russian Empire considered
Georgian their mother-tongue. According to the 1926 census, the only
census where each of the Jewish ethnic and linguistic groups appeared as
a separate entity, there were 30,534 Jews in Georgia, among them 20,897
Georgian Jews and 9,637 were Ashkenazim. In the same census 96.6% of the
Georgian Jews named Georgian as their mother-tongue, and their literacy
rate reached 36.29%. In 1931 the State Planning Committee estimated
their number at 31,974. The 1939 census showed 42,300 Jews (Georgian and
Ashkenazi), representing 1.2% of the total population. The 1959 census
reported that 35,673 Jews considered Georgian their mother-tongue. The
1970 census reported 55,382 Jews. About 70% of them left for Israel in
the course of the next decade. There were some Georgian Jews who were
registered as Georgians and not as Jews but no reliable estimate of
their number was available. The Georgian Jews lived mostly in Tbilisi
(Tiflis), capital of Georgia, the other centers being Kutaisi, Kulashi,
Tshinvali, Gori, Oni, and Sachkhere.
One historical tradition speaks of the first Jews coming to the country
after the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar 586
B.C.E. It is possible that this reflects the arrival of
Jews from Babylonia in Georgia, the southern part of which was
Jewish communities in Georgian S.S.R.
after World War II. From M. Neistadt, Yehudei Cruzyah: Maavak al
ha-Shivah le-iyyon, Tel Aviv 1970.
Jewish communities in Georgian S.S.R. after World War
II. From M. Neistadt, Yehudei Cruzyah: Ma'avak al
ha-Shivah le-Ẓiyyon, Tel Aviv 1970.
included in 539 B.C.E. in the ancient Persian state. The
Jews presumably spread to the rest of the country from the south.
Archaeological evidence supports the traditions by confirming the
existence of Jews in Mtzkheta, the ancient capital of the East Georgian
state of Kartli, in the first centuries C.E. Among the
first Christian missionaries in the early 4th century, a Jew
is mentioned named Eviatar or Abiatar from Urbnisi, as well as his
sister Sidonia. Both were sanctified by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Mention is also made of the Jewess Salomea who wrote the life of Nina
from Cappadocia who baptized the Georgians.
Georgian sources refer to the arrival of Jews in Western Georgia in the
6th century, evidently from the Byzantine Empire, and the
further migration of 3,000 Jews into Eastern Georgia. This information
might indicate a mass flight of Jews from the Western regions of
Georgia, ruled by the Byzantine Empire – where they were subjected to
severe suppression in the 6th century – to the south-eastern
regions of Georgia ruled at the time by Persians who tolerated Jews.
Sources also speak of Jewish migrations to Georgia from Armenia and
Iran. It is likely that the toponym אפריקי mentioned several times in
the Babylonean Talmud (e.g., Sanhedrin 94a, Tamid 32a) is to be read as
efirike, i.e., Iberika or Iberia which
was one of the ancient names of Eastern Georgia, as well as of Georgia
as a whole.
After the Arab conquest of considerable territory of Georgia in the
second half of the 7th century, it was transformed into a
province of the Arab caliphs, although it remained a Christian country.
In the late 9th century a Jewish sect emerged in Georgia
which denied some laws of halakhah including marriage and
kashrut regulations. The founder of the sect, Abu-ʿImran Musa
(Moshe) al-Za'farani, went to Tbilisi (Tiflis) from the Babylonian
Empire and was later known as Abu-ʿImran al-Tiflisi , and the
sect as a whole, which existed at least 300 years, was known as the
In the 9th century, Georgia was bordered to the east and
north by the Khazar kingdom (see khazars ), the elite of which
adopted Judaism. There are no authentic data on contacts between the
Khazars and the Jews of Georgia, but it is known that in the middle of
the 10th century Ḥisdai Ibn Shaprut wanted to send
his famous letter to Joseph, the king of the Khazars, through Georgia
which Ibn Shaprut called "Armenia" in accordance with Arabic terminology
of the time.
In the early Middle Ages Georgian Jewry was connected mainly with
Persian Jewry, and through Iran with Baghdad, the religious center of
From the travel diaries of pethahiah of regensburg , written in
the second half of the 12th century, it might be concluded
that some of the Jews living in "the Ararat country," i.e., in
Trans-Caucasus, had emigrated to other countries. He also noted that
during his stay in Baghdad he saw the messengers of the kings of
"Meshekh Land," and those messengers related that the "Kings of Meshekh
and all their Lands became Jews," and also that there were teachers
among the inhabitants of Meshekh "educating their children in Torah and
in the Jerusalem Talmud." Under the term "Meshekh" one of the Georgian
tribes, the Meskhi, might have been meant. However no support has been
found for the theory that this tribe as a whole or partially adopted
Judaism. Another Georgian tribe, the Hevsures, have up to the present
time preserved historical legends connected with Judaism.
Chronologically this would accord with the time of Pethahiah's story.
In the 12th century abraham ibn daud (Rabad
I) mentioned Georgia among the countries where the Jews
adhered to Rabbinical Judaism and not to Karaism. In the synagogue of
the small town of Lailashi in northwestern Georgia, there was preserved
up to the 1930s, a Pentateuch manuscript of the 11th or
12th century which was revered not only by the Georgian Jews,
but also by the Christian population who attributed to it miraculous
When invaded by the Mongols some of the Jews of eastern and southern
Georgia moved to western Georgia, which preserved its independence, and
founded new communities there. In the 14th century mention is
made of the Jewish community of Gagra on the Black Sea Coast, headed by
R. Joseph al-Tiflisi. At the same time the philologist R. Judah ben
Jacob either composed or rewrote a Hebrew grammatical work showing
traces of influence of the Karaite school of Hebrew grammar.
The impoverished situation of Georgian Jewry after the Mongol invasion
contributed to their becoming serfs. Numerous sources refer to their
serfdom over a five hundred year period, starting from the end of the
14th century. The process of enslavement accelerated in the
15th–16th centuries when their situation
deteriorated as a result of military invasions, first by Timur and then
by the armies of Turkey and Persia, and also because of constant inner
conflicts. All these events resulted in the disintegrating of the
country into three kingdoms and five feudal territories, as from the end
of the 15th century. Documents from the early 17th
to the mid-19th century attest to the numerous cases of the
selling of individual Jews or whole families and groups, or of their
changing one owner for another as debt payment or as a gift.
Persistent wars and rebellions devastated entire regions of the country
in the late 18th–early 19th century, depriving
Jews of their property, and often to escape immediate danger they had to
seek the protection of the local feudal lords, but in the final analysis
they became enslaved by their protectors. However, one premise of their
serfdom was always preserved: the owner was obliged not to force them to
convert to Christianity.
The Jewish serfs occupied themselves with agriculture or with the
traditional Jewish crafts: fabric weaving and dyeing. Some of them were
involved in retail trade and other outside jobs, paying their masters a
yearly compensation. As late as 1835, several decades after eastern
Georgia had been incorporated in the Russian Empire, many Jews still
lived on the estates of their feudal lords, and only a small proportion
was engaged in outside jobs in towns. Free Jews who could buy their
liberation now also lived in the towns. They were mostly affluent
merchants or owners of large stores.
Throughout the period of their serfdom, migration – forced or voluntary
– took place. Thus voluntary migrations to the Crimea occurred in the
15th–16th centuries. Jews in the 19th
and 20th centuries were still to be found in the Crimea
having family names of Georgian origin. In the
17th–18th centuries a forced migration occurred
when Georgian Jews were driven out by Persian invaders to Persia
together with tens of thousands of non-Jewish Georgians.
The Jewish serfs lived on their masters' estates as small groups,
separated from each other. Due to their isolation and the absence of a
uniting religious and spiritual center, their Jewish knowledge
deteriorated. The German traveler Reineggs who visited Georgia in 1780
wrote about the rural Jews being called "Canaanites" by the
urban Jewish merchants and weavers because of the former's poor
knowledge of the religious laws.
Sometimes Jews converted to Christianity to escape their serfdom. The
Georgian Church favored the conversions: documentary evidence exists of
cases where the Church paid for the liberation of serfs who wished to
convert. There were also cases when the feudal lords, contrary to their
obligations, forced their Jewish serfs to convert to Christianity.
According to the Georgian legislation the Jewish serfs of Georgia were
divided into three categories: the King's serfs, the Feudal serfs and
the Church's serfs. Both groups of Jews, free and enslaved, were not
admitted to serve in the army, and instead of military service payed the
"army ransom." When in 1801 eastern Georgia was included in the Russian
Empire the category of the King's serfs became the "Treasury Serfs"
obligated to pay taxes to the Russian treasury. In 1864–1871 serfdom in
Georgia was abolished, and the former serfs among Georgian Jews moved to
towns where the Jews had been already settled, and became engaged mainly
in retail trade.
A comparatively small share of the Jewish population was engaged in
various crafts, mainly in shoe and hat making. Before the revolution of
1917 this share did not exceed 3–5% of the Jewish labor force. Women
dealt with weaving and dyeing for home and for sale. Some families also
possessed land plots, mostly under grape cultivation.
The structure of the Jewish community finally developed following the
liberation of Georgian Jews from serfdom and their subsequent
urbanization. The liberated serfs coming from the same settlement as a
rule moved to the same town where they attempted to establish their own
synagogue, settling around it. Usually such a group consisted of a
limited number of large families encompassing three or four generations.
Each group elected its gabbai responsible for all the affairs
connected with the synagogue's activity. The ḥakham
authorized the religious life of the group combining functions of a
rabbi, ḥazzan, shoḥet, mohel and teacher of
medreshe (ḥeder). The Georgian Jewish groups from
rural settlements lived side by side in a new place of settlement, so
the Jewish population concentrated in one part of the town which later
turned into the Jewish quarter of the given town.
Open outbursts of antisemitism in Georgia became frequent in the second
half of the 19th century. Causes stemmed from the process of
urbanization of the Jewish community and the consequent change of
occupation by the majority of Jews who now chose trade as their
livelihood; from the influence of Russian antisemitism; and from turning
the Jew, a weak outsider, into
the object of a xenophobia which could not be released against another
stranger – the powerful Russian invader.
In the second half of the 19th century, six blood libels
occurred in Georgia which at the time constituted the highest
concentration of cases not only in the boundaries of the Russian Empire,
but in the whole world. The biggest and best known happened in 1878 in
the little town of Sachkhere where nine Jews were accused of the ritual
killing of a Christian child in anticipation of Passover. The trial of
the nine took place in Kutaisi and became known as the "Kutaisi trial"
which drew the attention of the civilized world. Although the accused
were not found guilty, the local population remained convinced that the
Jews used Christian blood for preparing maẓẓot. Other blood
libels in Georgia took place in 1852, 1881, 1882, 1883, and 1884. In
1895 the Kutaisi Jews suffered from a severe pogrom. In 1913 a gang
headed by the deputy governor of Kutaisi systematically extorted money
from the Jews, and those refusing to pay were killed.
One of the most important events in Georgian Jewish life in the
19th century was the establishment of contacts with Russian
Ashkenazi Jews who began to settle in Georgia after it was joined to the
Russian Empire. For decades the relations between the Georgian Jews and
the Ashkenazi communities remained strained: the Georgian Jews
considered the majority of the Ashkenazi Jews living in Georgia as
godless or insufficiently observant, while the Ashkenazim often looked
down on the Georgian Jews. Contacts became closer only at the end of the
19th century, but even then their relations were strained.
At the end of the 1890s R. Abraham ha-Levi Khvoles (1857–1931) – a pupil
of the famous Lithuanian Rabbi isaac elhanan spektor – was elected
chief rabbi of the town of Tzkhinvali. His only language for
communicating with his congregation was Hebrew, and as time passed the
number of Jews of the town using this language increased considerably.
In 1906 Khvoles established the first talmud torah in Georgia
where about 400 pupils studied. He was the first in Georgian Jewish life
to introduce education for girls, inviting for this purpose a female
Hebrew teacher. To accustom the Jews to crafts and skills he brought in
experienced teachers who taught boys shoemaking, leather tanning,
soap-boiling, and other skills. He sent some of his best students to the
Lithuanian yeshivot to continue their education and receive
the title of rabbi. In time, such practice became common among the
Georgian Jewish communities. Rabbi Khvoles influenced other communities
throughout Georgia: for example, in 1902 a school for children was
established in Tbilisi where teaching was conducted according to the
"Hebrew in Hebrew" system. The teachers for the school came from Vilna.
The Social-Democratic movement which emerged in Georgia at the end of
the 19th century had almost no impact on the Jews. One Jewish
Social-Democrat, Itzka Rizhinashvili (1885–1906), who became well known,
was killed by police in Kutaisi.
From the end of the 19th century Zionist circles sprang up in
the Ashkenazi communities, and its members began to propagate Zionist
ideas among the Georgian Jews. Rabbi David Baazov, one of the founders
of Zionism in the Georgian communities, participated in the Sixth
Zionist Congress in 1903. The majority of the Orthodox leaders, the
ḥakhams, actively struggled against the spreading of Zionist
ideas among Georgian Jews. Emissaries of the Ḥabad movement, who arrived
in Georgia from 1916, also resisted the penetration of Zionism.
World War I interrupted the process of Georgian
aliyah to Palestine which had begun in 1863. By 1916, 439
Georgian Jews were living in Palestine, the majority in Jerusalem where
they established their own quarter near the Damascus Gate. They had to
leave the quarter after the anti-Jewish Arab riots of 1929 had led to
its partial destruction.
Most Georgian Jews going to the Holy Land belonged to the poorest strata
of the community and engaged in physical labor. In Jerusalem, many were
freight-handlers. Only a small number became prominent in trade. These
included the Kokiashvili (Kokia) family which owned a network of shops
and large land holdings in Jerusalem. The Dabra family (Davarshvili)
traded on a large scale, mostly in Jerusalem. The Ḥasidov
(Khasidoshvili) and the Khakhamshvili families founded banking
Despite the fact that the main motivation for aliyah was
religious, only a small number of ḥakhams went to the Holy
Land. The well-known ḥakham of Akhaltzikhe, Yosef
Davidashvili, arrived in the 1890s; Simon ben Moshe Rizhinashvili
published in Jerusalem in 1892 a Hebrew-Georgian textbook and
conversation book, Sefer ḥinukh ha-ne'arim ("The Book for
Education of the Youth"), in Hebrew letters; Efraim ben Ya'akov ha-Levi
Kokia published in 1877 in Jerusalem the religious and philosophical
treatise Yalkut Ephraim al ha-Torah im Ḥamesh Megillot
("Comments by Ephraim on the Torah and the Five Scrolls"); he also wrote
Sam Ḥayyim: likkutim u-musarim tovim ("Elixir of Life:
Extracts and Benevolent Morals").
After the October 1917 Revolution, the Georgian population expressed its
strong desire for independence, and in May 1918 a democratic republic
was established. In the Georgian Executive Assembly, two places were
allocated for representatives of the Georgian Jews, and one for the
Ashkenazim. In the process of the elections, a small group of young
assimilatory Jews, headed by the brothers Yosef and Mikhael
Khananishvili were backed by Social Democrats – Mensheviks who formed
the coalition government. This group considered the Georgian Jews as
Jewish, not from the ethnic point of view, but as Georgians differing
from the rest of the population only by their religion. They fought
Zionism in concert with some Georgian Jewish religious leaders,
supported by members of the Ḥabad movement which had acquired
considerable influence in Kutaisi and in several other towns. Kutaisi
became the center of the anti-Zionist movement, whose participants
abstained from taking part in the All-Jewish Congress in
Tbilisi in 1918 where all the
Georgian Jewish and Ashkenazi communities of Georgia were represented.
The Association of Zionists of Georgia became the leading group in the
congress. The three Jewish representatives elected by the congress to
participate in the Executive Assembly were rejected by the Georgian
Election Committee which was averse to Zionist representatives and
preferred two candidates elected at the Kutaisi congress held at the
same time by anti-Zionist groups. The Ashkenazim protested against this
action by refusing to elect a new Ashkenazi representative instead of
the rejected one.
When the Red Army invaded Georgia in February 1921 the population fled
on a mass scale; 1,500–2,000 Jews left Georgia, and about 1,000–1,200 of
them arrived in Palestine. The rest settled mainly in Istanbul where a
Georgian Jewish community had been in existence from the 1880s. In 1921,
there were 1,700 Georgian Jews in Palestine.
At the outset of the Sovietization of Georgia the central Soviet
authorities adhered to a policy emphasizing respect of local traditions
including religious beliefs. This attitude applied also to Georgian
Jewry. The government bodies did not interfere in affairs connected with
Jewish religion and synagogues were open as previously. In the early
1920s, Zionist activities also were not impeded. The Zionist school in
Tblisi was reopened in 1921 after a short interruption, being now called
the Jewish Labor School No. 102, and Hebrew was taught there as the
national language of Georgian Jews. In 1924 a Zionist organ appeared in
Georgian called Makabeeli, but only three issues were
published. In 1924–25 the semi-legal ḥalutzic youth organization called
"Avoda" managed to function and the youth theater company "Kadima"
presented plays on Jewish themes in Georgian.
After an anti-Russian and anti-Soviet rebellion in Georgia was
suppressed in 1924, Soviet policy changed for the worse. Legal and
semi-legal Zionist activities were cut short. The economic regulations
resulted in the bankruptcy of many Jewish traders, large and small. The
Zionist group, headed by D. Baazov and N. Eliashvili, appealed to the
local authorities to allow Jews to occupy themselves with agriculture,
but were turned down. The two leaders then suggested that the
authorities should allow those Jews who could not be engaged in Georgian
agriculture to leave for Palestine. Two hundred families applied to
leave, and in October 1925, 18 of them were allowed to emigrate, under
the leadership of N. Eliashvili.
In the mid-1920s industrialization and secularization became the Soviet
authorities' main aims for the Jews of Georgia, who were dragged to
factories as a working force, or compelled to join craft cooperatives
and collective farms.
In 1927–28, OZET (the organization for settling Jewish
workers on the land) strengthened its activities, and its Georgian
affiliate established branches in many towns. The first Jewish
collective farm was formed in 1928 in Tziteli-Gora. By 1933 there were
15 collective farms with a population of 2,314 and land area of 1,540
ha. In 1928 efforts were made to settle some Georgian Jewish communities
in birobidjan and in certain regions of the Crimea assigned for
Jewish agricultural settlement, but these attempts failed. The Jewish
collective farms in Georgia contributed to local Jewish welfare, as a
means to alleviate their difficult material conditions; moreover they
could continue to live according to their religious and communal
traditions observing kashrut, Sabbath, Jewish festivals, and
From the outset of the 1930s, however, the authorities decided to break
the Jewish traditions by eliminating the ethnic homogeneity of the
Jewish collective farms; as a result the Jewish community could no
longer function. Thus in 1931 in establishing a collective farm in the
small town of Mukhrani the Jewish collective farmers were mixed with the
Georgians and Armenians, the collective farm being declared
"international." Toward 1934 the collective farm in Akhalzikhe,
established in 1931 as a Jewish undertaking, lost its ethnic
The policy of integrating the Jewish collective farms was conducted
against the background of intermittent blood libels occurring in
Sachkhere in 1921, in Tbilisi in 1923, and in Akhalzikhe in 1926.
Moreover, the ethnically heterogeneous collective farms became a
convenient target for anti-religious campaigns, which had become common
in Georgian Jewish life from the end of the 1920s.
From 1938 the Jewish collective farms were united with non-Jewish ones,
and the Jewish farmers started to leave them on a large scale. Thus the
experiment of turning part of Georgian Jewry into agricultural workers
ended, with the sole exception of the first Georgian-Jewish collective
farm of Tziteli-Gora which continued to exist up to the beginning of the
As its main tool to drive Jews to work in industry and to establish
producing cooperatives, the Soviet authorities founded "Evkombed"
("All-Georgian Committee for Assisting the Jewish Poor"). The committee
was created in 1928 after a fire in the Jewish quarter of Kutaisi which
was burnt to the ground: dozens of people perished and about 6,000 lost
In 1929 a considerable number of Jews were working in the silk factories
in Kutaisi and in Tbilisi. In 1931, 1,430 Jews joined the production
cooperatives of shoemakers, hat-makers, leather-tanners, and others,
half of them in Tbilisi. The majority of those cooperatives served as
cover for the private activities of a large family or several closely
connected families; the ethnic homogeneity of the productive
cooperatives allowed the members to observe Jewish tradition, and in the
first period of their existence Sabbath was the rest day.
The efforts of the authorities to eradicate the religious tradition and
to mix nationalities within each co-operative was partially successful.
The immediate result was the flight of Jews from mixed co-operatives. On
the whole the attempt to industrialize Georgian Jewry failed, and by
1935 only 7,000 Jews were involved in the process.
Religion was considered by the authorities the main ideological
impediment to their efforts to influence the Jews, and they accordingly
tried all means to secularize the community.
From 1927 the authorities established a
school network for Georgian Jews with instruction in Georgian. Camps and
clubs were created especially for Georgian Jewish youth and in 1933 the
"Lavrentii Beria Culture Club" for the working Jews of Georgia was
established. All these establishments were conducted in an
For some time the authorities toyed with the idea of creating a Soviet
Georgian-Jewish culture, of the same type as the Soviet-Yiddish culture.
In 1934 they established a "State History and Ethnography Museum" of the
Georgian Jews with the official aim of studying the history and customs
of the community and struggling against "survivals of the past in its
life." This undertaking attracted a group of young Jewish scholars.
About 60 pictures were exhibited in the Museum of Shlomo Koboshvili, an
artist of the 1920s, whose pictures depicted Georgian Jewish everyday
life and the past of Georgian Jewry. When the museum was closed in the
early 1950s, the pictures disappeared. The best-known Georgian author of
the 1920s and the 1930s was herzl baazov , novelist and
playwright, the subject of whose works was Georgian Jewish life.
In 1937–38 the authorities clamped down on Georgian culture, attacking
both Jewish religion and secular Jewish culture. In September 1937 nine
ḥakhams, of whom two were Ashkenazim, were arrested, in
Tzkhinvali (called Staliniri at the time), and killed in prison without
trial. In the beginning of 1938 Herzl Baazov perished in prison.
The only Jewish cultural establishment that continued to exist was the
History and Ethnography Museum, but in 1948 its director, Aharon
Krikheli, was arrested, and soon after, in the early 1950s, the museum
Thus, the Soviet authorities finally destroyed the non-religious
Georgian-Jewish culture which they had assiduously established in the
pre-war years. Only from the end of the 1950s did poems and stories by
writers belonging to the community and describing its life begin to
The Soviet rule was far from successful in its efforts to destroy the
religious tradition. Even in the 1960s and in the 1970s most Georgian
Jews observed religious traditions: visiting synagogues, observing
kashrut, and conducting their family life according to
religious Law. Many of their children studied in illegal
ḥeders. The authorities were aware of these schools but
chose not to notice them.
Although statistical data are lacking, it may be presumed that a
considerable proportion of Georgian Jewry became adjusted to the
economic situation in Georgia after World War II, viz.
the flourishing of private enterprise in trade and small stores under
the cover of the state trade and industrial establishments, with the
silent acquiescence of the local authorities. The latter used these
enterprises to boost the economy of the republic and raise their own
However whenever they had to organize a show trial of "violators of the
Soviet economic laws," demanded by the central authorities, the Jews
were always chosen as a scapegoat. Jews predominated among those
convicted for economic crimes in Georgia, were punished severely, and
sometimes sentenced to death. Community life developed amid continuing
blood libels: in 1963 in Tzkhaltubo, in 1964 in Zestafoni, and in 1965
After the six-day war Georgia was the leading region in the Soviet
Union for Jewish demonstrations and petitions demanding the right to
leave for Israel. The letter of Aug. 6, 1969, by 18 heads of Georgian
families to the United Nations containing an appeal to influence the
Soviet government to allow them to leave for Israel, was the first
document of the aliyah movement in the Soviet Union to
receive wide publicity in the West. The mass aliyah of
Georgian Jewry began in 1971; by 1981, about 30,000 of them had
immigrated to Israel.
(Michael Zand /
The Shorter Jewish Encyclopaedia in Russian)
-Participation in Intellectual Life
Georgian Jews took part in the literary, intellectual, and cultural life
of Georgia. Among them were Moshe Danieloshvili, a stage producer who
translated S. An-Ski 's play The Dybbuk into Georgian
and produced it at the state theater at Tbilisi; Gyorgi Kokashvili, a
poet, playwright, and literary critic, whose play "The Children of the
Sea" was performed at the state theater at Tbilisi; Rosa Davidashvili,
an ethnologist and author of children's literature of the generation
preceding the Revolution; and Shalom Mikhaelashivli, a historian who
investigated the history of his native community at Kulashi. Joseph
Kotsishvili, wrote an historical novel on the beginning of Jewish
settlement in Georgia; he translated Shalom Aleichem into Georgian as
well as works by lion feuchtwanger . Other notable Georgian Jews
were Herzl Baazov, Nissan Babalikashvili, Yiẓḥak Davidashvili
, boris gaponov (d. 1972), and abraham mamistabolob .
-Developments in the Georgian Republic
A CIS republic, Georgia declared its independence in
1991, becoming an arena of military conflict, first between President
Zviad Gamsakhurdiia and the opposition, and then, after the former was
driven out in January 1992, between the government of Eduard
Shevardnadze and separatists in Southern Osetia and Abkhazia. One of
Gamsakhurdiia's advisors was Isai Goldshtien, a former refusenik who
became an anti Zionist. Most Georgian Jews, however, were reluctant to
become involved in the struggles for power.
The Soviet censuses reported 24,800 Jews in 1989; 14,300 of the latter
were Georgian Jews who had preserved their ethnic and religious
distinctiveness despite speaking the same language as their host
nationality. In the mass emigration of Jews that proceeded after the
breakup of the Soviet Union, their number dropped to 14,500 in 1993 and
under 5,000 in 2000. Approximately 30 Jewish organizations were in
operation, including a day school in Tbilisi and supplementary schools
in other cities. In February 1993, the first issue of the Jewish
newspaper in the Georgian language, Menora, was published;
the publisher and the editor was Guram Bariashvili.
E. Salgaller, in: JSOS, 26 (1964), 195–202; A. Harkavy,
Ha-Yehudim u-Sefat ha-Slavim (1867), 106–20; J.J. Chorny,
Sefer ha-Massa'ot be-Ereẓ Kavkaz u-va-Medinot asher me-Ever
la-Kavkaz (1884); A.L. Eliav (Ben-Ammi), Between Hammer and
Sickle (1969), passim; M. Neistadt, Yehudei Gruzyah
(1970); Histoire de Géorgie depuis l'antiquité jusqu'au
XIXè siècle (attrib. uncertain, trans.
M.F. Brosset (Rus. name M.I. Brosse), 7 vols., 1849–58); J. Baye,
Les Juifs des montagnes et les Juifs géorgiens (1902); A.
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Источник: GEORGE, WALTER LIONEL